Minnesota Government Shutdown Reaches Its 6th Day
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Today is day sixth of the Minnesota state government shutdown. The governor, Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is still at odds with Republican state lawmakers over balancing the budget. After meeting this afternoon, no compromise was reached.
Tom Scheck has been covering the shutdown and budget debate for Minnesota Public Radio, and he joins us now from Saint Paul. Tom, welcome to the program.
TOM SCHECK: Hi, Michele.
NORRIS: Now, I gather there was some movement today after meeting with Republicans. The governor announced he was willing to revise his tax proposal with hopes of convincing the lawmakers to accept some kind of revenue increase. Tell us more.
SCHECK: Well, that's right, Michele. Governor Dayton has been pushing for an income tax hike on Minnesotans who make over $1 million a year. He actually came out today and said he'd revive that and make it a temporary income tax hike for those folks. And then, he also suggested, well, if, Republicans, you don't like that, maybe we should raise the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack.
And so, what he's trying to do right now is present other options for Republicans to support some kind of revenue increase. That's the big sticking point at this point.
Republicans don't want to raise any more taxes, raise any more revenues. The governor says he wants to find at least $1 billion to about $1.4 billion more for this budget.
NORRIS: You know, the interesting thing about what's going on in Minnesota is how it mirrors the national debate. A lot of people are looking to see who might get blamed, which party might get blamed. And both sides there in Minnesota seem to think that they have the wind at their backs, and they both can't be right.
SCHECK: Well, that's right. The governor has been arguing that he has run -since day one when he started running for governor, that he was going to raise income taxes and raise taxes and that he argues that that is a signal that the voters are will him.
Now on the flip side of that, Republicans took control of the legislature for the first time in decades, both the House and Senate, and they've been running and talking about reining in spending, you know, cutting the budget. And they're arguing that, like Congress in Washington, D.C., that the wind's at their backs and that they won't - the folks out there want to cut spending.
NORRIS: Minnesotans have a particular view of their state government. They tend to pride themselves on being known as the land of good government. Has that played a role on how voters are reacting to the shutdown?
SCHECK: Well, you can see at parades, when folks were out at parades, we've been getting reports all over the place for the Fourth of July parades that some Minnesotans have been telling lawmakers get your work done. Come on, this is something that we want to see done.
You know, Minnesotans aren't really people who are combative in terms of they want to see bare-knuckle brawls in terms of their politics. They just want to see some kind of compromise.
And over the years, that's occurred whether it's a Republican governor, an independent governor, a Democratic governor or vice versa in terms of the legislature, whatever control that is. And so, there is some frustration at this point that the governor and the legislature can't get their work done at this time.
NORRIS: Now, we've been talking about the current governor, but Minnesota is in the spotlight for another reason: Two presidential GOP candidates hail from that state. And I'm curious about former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. He's running a campaign that's based on his skills as a governor in balancing the budget. Is he shouldering any part of the blame for this shutdown?
SCHECK: He is not. And that's something that the Democrats are criticizing him for because they say he left the state in a fiscal mess. They say he left the state with a $5 billion projected budget deficit, because he didn't want to make the significant spending cuts that were needed or raise revenue, taxes or something else.
The governor, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, argues that the budget was balanced when he was there. And he left and it's okay. His advisors are arguing that, you know, this is an example for him to highlight his record of holding the line on spending in a state that tends to be Democratic.
So it's going to be interesting to see, as he starts to run here and move whether it's to Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and talk about this, whether his Republican rivals or the Democrats continue to point out that the state is in a fiscal mess.
NORRIS: Tom Scheck has been covering the shutdown and budget debate for Minnesota Public Radio. Tom, thank you very much.
SCHECK: Thank you.
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MELISSA BLOCK, host:
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